Norfolk headteachers urged to use Olympics to inspire

A British Paralympian today (Wednesday) urged headteachers to make the most of the Olympics to inspire Norfolk's youngsters – just like he was.

Ade Adepitan was addressing an audience of school leaders at the annual headteachers' conference, organised by Norfolk County Council, at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.

The wheelchair basketball player, and Paralympic bronze medallist, told them: 'My first real Olympic memory came when I was about seven – it was the 1984 Olympics.

'I remember seeing all my heroes there, like Seb Coe, and it captivated me.'

The conference aimed to highlight the role London 2012 can play in motivating and raising the aspirations of Norfolk's young people.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Adepitan, who told the headteachers his inspirational story from contracting polio as a child to being selected for the Great Britain wheelchair basketball team in 2000, said: 'Kids don't always respond to the things you have at school. They don't always respond to the academic stuff. Certainly the thing that changed my life was sport – it's really easy to relate to the journeys some of the athletes go on.

'It's not just about the medals. It's how hard the guys and girls have had to work, the barriers they have to overcome. What the Olympics and Paralympics epitomise is that hard work ethos and the idea that you shouldn't give up.'

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Earlier in the day, Lisa Christensen, director of children's services at the county council, congratulated the school leaders for a successful year which ended with another record-breaking set of GCSE results.

But she said schoolchildren across the country were looking at a worrying world full of unemployment and debt and it was up to headteachers to ensure that 'gloom doesn't infect our schools and that our children don't lose their confidence, their aspirations and their self belief.'

The conference was told London 2012 could help. 'This is going to be something which is going to a legacy which we very much need to make the best of both nationally and in Norfolk,' said Mrs Christensen.

The county council has been working closely with schools to help them embrace the Olympics and bring the Games' seven values – respect, excellence, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration and equality – into the classroom.

So far 74pc of Norfolk's schools have registered with the national Get Set programme which provides resources and ideas on how to make the most of the Games. The council's own intiative, Just Imagine, encourages pupils to record an Olympic pledge – like improving their swimming by 2012 – while running in a virtual stadium.

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk